Pastor Released from Prison

March 20, 2008

The Baptist World Alliance is reporting that Zaur Balaev, a Baptist pastor in Azerbaijan, has been released from prison. Last August, Balaev was sentenced to two years in prison based on trumped up charges in a country where Baptists are persecuted. BWA leaders have been fighting for months to draw attention to his case and gain his release. They not only raised the issue among Baptists around the world but also appealed to the Azerbaijani government. We should all praise God that our faithful brother in Christ has been given his freedom, and thank God for the work of the BWA in helping his family during this difficult time and working to get him released.

Hopefully, this case will be a reminder to Southern Baptists that their decision to withdraw from the BWA was a mistake. It was based on inaccurate attacks and has separated them from their brothers and sisters around the world like Balaev. Although the BWA has put out numerous articles about this case, the Baptist Press has never reported on it. Where is Bobby Welch, the SBC Executive Committee's strategist for global evangelical relations? Why did he not help draw attention to his brother's plight? Maybe it is because he was too busy praying at the Daytona 500. Is he the SBC global relations guy or the SBC's NASCAR outreach guy (maybe they could get Ricky Bobby for that position). The Baptist Press article about his prayer makes a big deal about him saying the name 'Jesus' in his prayer. How about an article that instead focused on living out the teachings of Jesus by helping care for the prisoner Balaev?

Fortunately, the BWA will be able to continue its much needed ministry to help Balaev and other Baptists around the world. I am very glad that the Baptist General Convention of Missouri is part of the BWA and supporting its vital ministries. BWA General Secretary Neville Callam stated about the news of Balaev's release:

Baptists from all over the world rejoice in God's answer to our prayers for the release of our brother, Zaur Balaev. ... His patience in suffering and courage in the midst of trial has provided for us a splendid example of discipleship in the modern world. We look forward to giving him a platform to talk to Baptists about his faith and his experience.
I hope that the BWA will be able to help Balaev let others know about the persecution of Baptists in Azerbaijan and hopefully prevent future injustices.